Haitians and other refugees deserve America’s help!

“Our country has been the leading provider of humanitarian aid for refugees” — Elizabeth Esty

“I believe in the promise of America. Being a Cuban refugee, having come here when I was eight, I know that this is a shining city on the hill” — Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

“I have been a foreigner all my life, first as a daughter of diplomats, then as a political refugee and now as an immigrant in the U.S. I have had to leave everything behind and start anew several times, and I have lost most of my extended family”— Isabel Allende

The recent attack on immigrants and minorities by the Trump administration to end temporary protected status and send 60,000 Haitians back to suffering and pain in their country-the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is the latest in an alarming trend. Haiti cannot provide for them, and this decision is inhumane and unconscionable. This status was extended to Haitians, as America has done in the past with several other countries, after a destructive earthquake hit the island nation in 2010. With its poor economy, infrastructure and resources, Haiti is incapable of repatriating tens of thousands of people.

Conscious of, and humbled by, its people’s suffering, the Haitian government had asked the Trump administration to extend the protected status. After all, America has a conscience. Haitians are the second-largest group of foreigners with temporary status. The protection is extended to people already in the United States who have come from countries severely affected by natural disasters or armed conflict that prevents their citizens from returning or prevents their country from adequately receiving them.

Roughly 40,000 people who lost their homes in the earthquake still live in camps for the displaced, and a cholera epidemic killed thousands of people in the aftermath of the earthquake. Struggling to recover from the earthquake, they relied heavily on the money expatriates send to them back home to survive, but that lifeline will now be cut from them. Moreover, the decision to end the program will uproot the lives of Haitians who have been in the United States for years, most of whom live in Florida, home to roughly two-thirds of Haitian TPS enrollees. Haitians sent home will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and unemployment. It will precipitate double hardship.

Indeed, a permanent legislative solution must be found within the 18-month grace period. The move means that the Haitians given temporary protected status, or TPS, may remain until July 22, 2019, but could face deportation after that date. This is unconscionable, and a more humane solution must be found.

El Salvador has the largest group of Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries in the United States, nearly 200,000 people. The Department of Homeland Security is scheduled to announce next month whether it will rescind or renew protection for that country, which is plagued with gang violence and high unemployment. The protection applies to Salvadorans who were in the United States without permission on Feb. 13, 2001, and was granted after deadly earthquakes destroyed their home country. Protections for Nicaraguans ended last month, and similar protections for Hondurans loom large. These countries’ citizens living here need help and humanitarian consideration also.

Others who now benefit include people from Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and the Trump administration must not continue to err on the side of cruelty and hostility to these nationals. That’s not the America we want, nor is that the America we have been!

Note: Albert Baldeo is a civil rights activist and community advocate. As President of the Baldeo Foundation and Liberty Justice Center, he has continued to fight for equal rights, dignity and inclusion in the decision making process. He can be contacted at the Baldeo Foundation: (718) 529-2300.

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